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Interview with John Zogby

John Zogby is an internationally respected pollster, opinion leader and best-selling author. In this interview, John tells us about his expectations for the future, the changes he has witnessed in America, and why he loves being a speaker.

Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

I always enjoy the give-and-take during the question and answer period. I love the spontaneity and the fact that I don’t always (or perhaps ever) know what I will say. I do not use notes, never prepared remarks. So really every speech is a challenge to me. Once, I was in the middle of a talk, and my mind went completely blank. I forgot what I wanted to say next and, for that matter, where I was, how I was going to get home, or even where the home was. Then I regained my stride. When I was done, a man came up to me and congratulated me on my great speech and said, “You got to my heart when you paused. It made me think more deeply. That is a very dramatic method”. Whew!


What started your interest in polling?

I had always been amazed by polling. I ran for mayor of my small city in 1981. I was a college teacher and a political activist, so I asked some of my student volunteers to help me design and carry out a poll on my candidacy. The bad news is I lost. The good news is that I knew exactly by how much I would lose. One of our former U.S. Vice Presidents once said, “I would rather be right than President.” That is how I feel.


What are some of the ways America had changed since 1996 when you gained renown for your polling?

“The traditional American Dream has been mainly about material things, acquisition, and ownership. That has been shifting dramatically, and now more Americans are what I refer to as Secular Spiritualists who focus much more on leading a spiritually satisfying life — one that is authentic effectively makes a mark on other people, and is much more thrifty and environmentally sound. This has been caused by a number of factors — those who have been forced to downsize their expectations by working for less pay; those who have attained wealth and have not found it fulfilling; those Baby Boomers who want to make their later years more authentic; and Millennials who have undergone harder times and want to enjoy experiences more than things.


What are some of your forecasts for the future?

Lots of our familiar institutions will be rocked by transformative changes. Political parties will no longer work in their present form, and younger people will turn to temporary alliances to effect change. The typical church will no longer by a cathedral made of stone or glass but someone’s kitchen’s table or living room; there will be less hierarchy in our lives as we learn to rely more and more on each other and less on traditional leaders. Our children and grandchildren may be visiting Neptune on weekends, and we may very well be old enough to live to hear about it.


Who or what inspires you most?

I have a lot of faith in Millennials and Generation Z. They are not steeped in a lot of the negativity and staggering rules of engagement that limit us.


What do you gain personally from being a public speaker?

I love to entertain with ideas and to perform before a live audience. I have come to understand how an actor like Yul Brunnar could play the King of Siam in the “King and I” before a live audience for three decades. It is intellectually stimulating, personally rewarding, and I love the immediate gratification from the laugh lines and the serious messages. 

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